MISSOULA — Barbara Jean O'Keefe passed away on Nov. 8, 2019, following her long battle with cancer. She was surrounded by her loving family holding her hands, praying, and sharing stories, just the way she wanted it.
Barb was born on March 10, 1947. She grew up at Georgetown Lake where summers were swimming, boating and water skiing, and winters were sledding and ice skating. Barb graduated high school from Anaconda Central after which she attended Carroll College and received her master’s degree in education through the University of Montana. She then embarked on a 40+ year teaching career where she reached many heights, including her class winning the Jeannette Rankin Peace Award, and being named Teacher of the Year for Montana. In her mind though, her greatest achievement was watching her students succeed.
Barb married the love of her life, her hon, Dennis O’Keefe in 1975 and they celebrated 44 years of love, laughter and family. They welcomed their children Casey, Sean, Kevin and Shannon who all grew up in a loving, nurturing, and happy family. Barb was the most loving, involved mother and attended every sports event for each of her children and everyone knew she was there by the expression of her passion for the game. She passed on this passion of living a joyful, active life through coaching, teaching, and just being an overall amazing person and mother.
Barb never fully retired but moved into the role of teaching and mentoring teachers. She will live on in the lives of students, as she has influenced many teachers who are still using what she taught them in their classrooms. Barb made many friends throughout her career and life and cherished time she spent with them through the many activities they did together such as book clubs, play groups and others.
The ultimate highlight of Barb’s life was being “Nana” to her eight beautiful grandchildren, all of whom adored her for all her snuggles, singing them songs, reading them books and Nana’s favorite thing, rocking them to sleep.
Barb was preceded in death by her parents Ursula and William Lester, and her mother- and father-in-law, Daniel and Francis O’Keefe. She is survived by her loving husband Dennis, her sons, Casey (Wendy) of Dallas, Texas, Sean (Rebecca) of Eugene, Oregon, Kevin (Alaina) of Pittsford, New York, and daughter Shannon (Robert) of Thermopolis, Wyoming; her grandbabies; Hanna, Noah, Liam, Wallace, Elijah, Weston, Connor, Greyson and new baby girl due in April; her siblings; William (Judy), Carol (Joe), and Patti Ann.
Barb, with all of your struggles, you inspired all of us to be better, kinder and more loving. We will miss your beautiful smile, but know that you will be with us in our hearts and memories and are most definitely strumming away at your guitar singing songs from above. We love you.
Barb’s funeral service will be held at Christ the King Parish on Friday, Nov. 15, at 4 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in Barb’s name be made to the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center, a cause near and dear to Barb’s heart. Please visit jrpc.org/jrpcsupport/ to make donations.